I lost a cousin this week, his death was the result of shadows too dark.
Death is a spectre that hides in youth but haunts us as one ages. One’s natural eyes may be dimming as the dusk colors of life can be seen on the horizon, but death can no longer camouflage himself to the the inner eye of truth.
Death has always been here, lurking, taking…but the Sun eclipses the Moon in one’s earlier seasons of life. In these modern times, we have forgotten that we are not immortal. Death surprises us, and we are left feeling we have to explain grief and mourning like it’s a questionable headache that could be assuaged by aspirin or a walk in the fresh air.
I sit here today, not worshipping, but wondering why we allow life to pass by so fast and so often fail to attend to the things that matter most? In the end, we will most agonize over who isn’t by our side or who could of been.
One of the disruptions of divorce that hardly seems to get any voice these days, is the way extended family ties are severed. The axe wound to the soul of it all, can set a relational divide that widens and widens until time has made the chasm seem uncrossable.
We end up not only separated from one another in our immediate home, but the impact of the marital ending sends all of our family relationships out of the previous stable and familiar orbit. Everything is out of place and the results can be lifelong.
If one has wise and healthy people around, there may be a chance to salvage the fabric of family. But usually, it tears into a confusing mess of mismatched, awkward and confusing attachments.
There is no one to really blame, we all fumble forward trying to figure out how to survive, but once we have, we look back or around us, and realize there are important people…missing. Death is like a splash of cold water to the face of this reality.
This small section from an ancient book of rage and warfare, captures these complexities and sorrows. I offer it up like a penitent’s burnt offering, in ashes, dust and tears.
‘The Grief of Achilles over Patroclus’ -The Iliad, Book XVIII
“Nestor came up to him and told his sad tale, weeping bitterly the while. “Alas,” he cried, “son of noble Peleus, I bring you bad tidings, would indeed that they were untrue. Patroclus has fallen…
A dark cloud of grief fell upon Achilles as he listened. He filled both hands with dust from off the ground, and poured it over his head, disfiguring his comely face, and letting the refuse settle over his shirt so fair and new. He flung himself down all huge and hugely at full length, and tore his hair with his hands. The bondswomen whom Achilles and Patroclus had taken captive screamed aloud for grief, beating their breasts, and with their limbs failing them for sorrow. Antilochus bent over him the while, weeping and holding both his hands as he lay groaning for he feared that he might plunge a knife into his own throat. Then Achilles gave a loud cry and his mother heard him as she was sitting in the depths of the sea…
Then said Achilles in his great grief, “I would die here and now, in that I could not save my comrade. He has fallen far from home, and in his hour of need my hand was not there to help him.”
I am deeply sorry Willie, I wish I could of, or…would of, been there for you.
But now…there is only…grief.
(Art: Jeffrey Jones)